Spot.Us has just had one of its most exciting weeks chalk full of successes and failures.
The most interesting lesson is related to the Oscar Grant shooting
in Oakland California. It is a tragic event that occurred where a Bart
police officer shot and killed a young man. The entire event, caught on
camera, has touched on deep seeded issues of class and racism in
Oakland. Subsequent protests turned into civil unrest and the city of
Oakland continues to deal with the emotional aftershocks. All this came
just four days after we had successfully funded an investigation into
the Oakland Police department.
With a specific call to action the Spot.Us platform performed beautifully.
An independent journalist uploaded a pitch: a description of the work he wanted to do.
- Internet leaders passionate about the story spread the word and donated.
- The Spot.Us team did some pre-reporting to show that indeed – this is an important topic that can benefit from deep story-telling
- An independent news organization put up 50% of the cost for the story
and will in exchange publish the content first and we will link to
them. So the finished content gets seen by more people and the initial
donors are validated in their early support.
Those four steps allowed us to fund the Oscar Grant short documentary in 11 days.
This week we also started reporting on
- The affordability of solar power for Bay Area homeowners.
- The impact of the recession on small SF business owners.
But – as noted in the title, we’ve had some failures as well. I
don’t take these as a bad sign – in fact, if we didn’t stumble along
the way we wouldn’t learn. And indeed we are learning with every single
pitch on Spot.Us.
This week we took down two pitches because they simply didn’t get
enough donations. A third came down because of a reporter’s health.
The two pitches that were taken down were going to examine:
How prepared the city of Oakland is for an earthquake.
- Where Bay Area neighborhoods get their electricity.
Both were great story ideas, but for some reason didn’t connect with
potential donors/readers. We simply couldn’t get the traction for them.
One thought is that they were both too broad. I suppose that is the
classic problem in preparing for an earthquake. It will affect
everybody – but nobody thinks it’ll happen to them.
We are learning more and more how to present pitches to garner public support.
We’ve also started making some decisions that originally I wanted to
avoid. I often refer to spot.us as a platform not a news organization –
and while I stay committed to that notion – in the future we are going
to make more editorial decisions about what pitches we will and won’t
take on. We are going to hold reporters responsible for certain actions
and we will strongly suggest pricing for their work. We’ve begun to do
this in public with the Spot.Us Reporter Agreement and pricing.
Spot.Us has also recently hired a community organizer Kara Andrade
who is helping take our mission offline – to the neighborhood
associations, to the PTA, nonprofits, etc. I think this is a part of
Spot.Us that will be absolutely crucial for our development.
And out development continues. The web application continues to
improve. I’m hoping that by the end of March or early April the code
will be in good enough shape that others could take it and start their
own “community funded reporting” site. That will be its own post.
There are more stories to tell, from the divide of wealth and poverty in SF to the phasing out of Oakland schools. Spot.Us has now funded 11 stories. We have five more in our system that we hope to fund.
Come join the revolution – it takes mere seconds and as little as $5 to make a difference. For now…. ONWARD!!!